THE ORIGINAL SMITH POINT BRIDGE: At the beginning of the twentieth century, there was a one-quarter mile-long wooden bridge connecting Mastic Beach on the Long Island mainland and the eastern end of Fire Island. Several years after it was built, the bridge was wrecked by ice flows in Great South Bay. The bridge primarily provided access to the old Smith Point Hotel, which ultimately was destroyed by fire.

MOSES PLAN THWARTED: In 1938, Robert Moses, chairman of the Long Island State Park Commission, proposed a comprehensive plan to restore Fire Island after a severe hurricane buffeted the barrier beach. The plan called for an eastern extension of the Ocean Parkway from Fire Island Inlet east to Ponquogue, a new parkway spur along the route of the present-day William Floyd Parkway (Suffolk CR 46), and a new bascule-lift span. However, the Suffolk County Board of Supervisors voted down the $9.3 million "Moses-Andrews" proposal in favor of a less comprehensive plan.

THE NEW SMITH POINT BRIDGE: In July 1955, the Shirley-Mastic Chamber of Commerce invited 12,000 people to break ground for the new Smith Point Bridge to Fire Island. The new one-quarter mile bridge represented the first step by Suffolk County to preserve 810 miles of shore frontage for public purposes. Included in the bridge project was the development of Smith Point County Park, a facility with a beach frontage of 6,000 feet along the Atlantic Ocean. Although the new county park was not of the same scale as the state parks developed by Moses, the park was to include bathing and camping facilities.

The 1,216-foot-long bascule drawbridge, which has a main span of 80 feet, has a double-leaf, steel-deck design. In the closed position, the span has a vertical clearance of 22 feet. The bridge carries two lanes (one lane in each direction) over its 22-foot-wide roadway, which is flanked on each side by sidewalks. The entire structure was built on concrete piles, with a reinforced concrete roadway laid on a steel beam superstructure.

The new Smith Point Bridge, which is the southern terminus of the four-lane William Floyd Parkway (Suffolk CR 46), opened on July 4, 1959. At the dedication ceremonies, Robert Moses, who did not play a direct role in the span's construction, praised Suffolk County officials for their efforts in preserving the beach for public purposes and for building the bridge.

However, there is speculation that Moses may have played an indirect role in the bridge's construction. In the 1950's and early 1960's, he planned an eastern extension of the Ocean Parkway eastward from Robert Moses State Park along the 32-mile-length of Fire Island. The Smith Point Bridge may have provided an eastern access point to the proposed Ocean Parkway Extension, which was killed in 1964 with the establishment of Fire Island National Seashore. Hints of the proposed parkway are found at the western end of the dual-carriageway Fire Island Beach Road (Suffolk CR 75), where there are "roadways to nowhere."

Type of bridge:
Construction started:
Opened to traffic:
Length of bascule draw span:
Total length of bridge:
Width of bridge:
Number of traffic lanes:
Width of roadway:
Clearance at center above mean high water:
Cost of original structure (including approaches):

Steel-deck bascule drawbridge
July 16, 1955
July 4, 1959
80 feet
1,216 feet
28 feet
2 lanes
22 feet
22 feet

SOURCES: "Beaches Rising Again Where Storm Passed," New York Herald-Tribune (12/27/1938); "Restoration and Protection of Fire Island," Long Island State Park Commission (1938); "12,000 Are Invited To Start Span Job," The New York Times (7/10/1955); "$2.5 Million Smith Point Bridge to Fire Island To Open July 4" by Byron Porterfield, The New York Times (6/15/1959); "Motorcade Opens Fire Island Span" by Bernard Stengren, The New York Times (7/05/1959); History of the Long Island State Parkway System, New York State Department of Transportation (1985); Suffolk County Planning Department; Daniel T. Dey; Russ Weisenbacher.

  • Suffolk CR 46 shield by Ralph Herman.
  • Lightpost by Millerbernd Manufacturing Company.



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